Cozy Holiday At Home

Despite all the cleaning, cooking, baking and prep-work involved with hosting a holiday, there’s nothing quite like having a cozy, quiet Thanksgiving at home.

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I finished up the napkins and moved on to a table runner from a canvas dropcloth I got at Lowe”s and some leaf stamps.

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I was rather pleased with the result!

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Five pies were made in advance. Two pumpkin, one pumpkin cream, one vegan pumpkin (okay I cheated there and only had to heat that one up from frozen), and an apple pie.

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I made a GIANT batch of Susan’s stuffing – I hadn’t realized how large a regular batch was, so I doubled it.

We’ll be eating stuffing leftovers for the next three years.

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Oona showed off her reading skills to Paul’s mom.

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I spent most of the day on my feet in front of the stove – but it was totally worth it.

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Obligatory meal photo – we had brined, roasted turkey (Trader Joe’s – easiest bird I have ever cooked!) with homemade gravy from pan drippings, roasted green beans with red onions, garlic and pancetta, sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows on top (the kids demanded it), Susan’s stuffing, mashed potatoes (made in the crockpot!!!  BEST thing ever!), homemade rolls, and two kinds of cranberry sauce (bourbon-cranberry and cranberry chutney).

Goodness I think I need to go fix myself a plate of leftovers now.

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Pie, coffee and wine by candlelight.

Today we shall avoid the shopping crowds and enjoy some family time before getting our tree tomorrow and kicking off the Christmas season.

Hope your holiday was as warm and pleasant as ours!

Putting Up The Hay

We got a delivery of hay today from our lovely hay people, and as soon as I sat back down inside the house to warm up (it’s frigid out there!), I realized that tomorrow’s forecast calls for sleet and rain.  This means that all 14-odd 800 lb. bales of hay HAD to be moved down to the back field, lined up on cinder blocks and covered before dark.

This is normally a job that Paul does, but he doesn’t get home in the evenings until after dark.

So I bundled up and grumbled all the way out to the tractor and got busy.

It took ALL AFTERNOON.

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It’s not so much that it is difficult work, but that it is slow going.  You have to be very careful going down the hill with such a heavy load on the spear, and you have to line up cinder blocks for each and every bale.

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I also discovered that the insulated work gloves I got from Tractor Supply for farm work didn’t hold up to freezing temperatures at all.

Thankfully my hand-knit hat kept my head nice and toasty – let’s hear it for wool!

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I finished up just as it got dark, and I even dropped an extra bale in with the sheep.

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I’ve got a pretty big workload ahead of me for the next few days.  I painted Oona’s room but now I have to get it put back together properly.  I started painting our rockers for the front porch and need to finish those:

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Yes, I know it’s all over the grass.  You see, there’s a difference between how I do things and how Paul does things.  He prefers the “put it off until you have everything you need and can do it properly in one go”, whereas I hail from the school of thought of “why wait if I can half-ass it now?”

Tonight I’ll be sewing up napkins for Thanksgiving out of this lovely fabric I found at fabric.com:

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Tomorrow begins the timeless tradition of baking and obsessive cleaning that will take us through to the holiday.

Let’s hope that sleet passes us by, shall we?

November-ing

As we careen toward Thanksgiving I’ve been trying with all my might to enjoy November and its relative calm.  After the Big Meal it will be all Christmas and crazy, but for now it’s still fall, everything pumpkin is still in vogue for the month.  There are still a few patches of color here and there where the rain and wind have not knocked them off the trees, and it’s still not bitter cold.

Although, truth be told, the weather here has been so bizarre I think I’d take the bitter cold just so I’d know how to cope.  Instead we’ve had a day where it flurried like mad for about an hour followed by temperatures in the 70’s a few days later.  You never know if you’ll need the A/C or the heat on.

It’s the ending of fall, and it’s bittersweet.

We will be having Thanksgiving at home this year with Paul’s family, and I am enjoying getting the house organized and cleaned in readiness for it (hey, cleaning is therapeutic for me!).  In the meantime it’s starting to get hard to concentrate on school when there’s so much to be done and to enjoy, but we’re at least not falling behind.

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Oona’s reading a lot of seasonally appropriate books about Thanksgiving (though the pickings are slim on these – as a historian I don’t like the ones that whitewash the history, even-or maybe especially- for little ones).

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Yesterday my November issue of British Country Living came, and I spent a glorious afternoon with a cup of coffee and some gingerbread cookies from Trader Joe’s, pouring over its pages.

That mug, by the way, is one of my absolute favorites.  It was made by my friend Anna Branner with Susan’s logo on it, and you can find more of Anna’s wonderful wares HERE.

To top off all things Novembery, we’ve been enjoying some homemade Pumpkin-Cinnamon Swirl bread.  It’s wonderful toasted with a bit of butter.  I used the recipe for the Cinnamon Swirl bread (made in the Pullman Loaf pan) from King Arthur Flour, but for the filling I added about a third cup of pumpkin puree and took out 1 egg and the water.  It’s got just a touch of pumpkin-y flavor when it’s done and it smells heavenly while it’s baking!

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On Children and Fashion

The other day after we finished school I decided to treat the kids to a trip to Trader Joes.  I had to make the trip anyway, and the kids seemed to be a bit stir crazy.  I also, apparently, wasn’t thinking too clearly about just how horrible it is to shop with my kids.

Either way, I told them all to get dressed appropriately for going out in the winter-like temperatures and off they scattered into their rooms.

Oona came back downstairs first, wearing a hodge-podge of colors and clothing: a maroon floral knit dress (short sleeved) over a pair of jeans, with 2 unmatched socks and a pink handknit sweater.  The crowning touch? Her bright turquoise glittered Toms shoes.

This outfit, coupled with her unwashed, pink hair was…..interesting.

Neve came down second in a white billowy sundress with spaghetti straps.

I sent her back to the drawing board, hearing her shout all the way that she has no sweaters (I assure you, as a mother, as a former upstate New Yorker, and as a knitter, that kid has all the warm clothes she could ever need).

Emily came down in black skinny jeans with one ripped knee, a button-down shirt, a way-too-big tan trench coat, high heel shoes and a green wig that covered her face.

I said no to the trench coat and the heels.  She swapped them for boots and a velvet coat and knit scarf.

Well……she tried, I guess.

Neve ended up with black leggings that she has worn every day for at least a month (I have to sneak them into the wash when she is asleep); I noted they were covered in lint and fur and probably sheep slobber.  On top she had a yellow tee shirt.  She managed to fins a pink sweater and threw on some black dress shoes.

Her hair was a tangled mess and it took my forever to brush it out.  Ten minutes later, it was snarled again.

This is what I took with me into public.

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Sorry for the crappy picture – I took it with my phone.

The thing about it is this: as much as  I worry about the judgmental stares from people (and yes, I do get them, especially with a 6 year old with pink hair), it’s not a battle that’s really worth fighting.

They need to express themselves, and as long as it’s not inappropriate, they don’t need me freaking out about it.  This was another reason we chose homeschool; at these young ages they are trying to figure out who they are as people, and I want their focus to be on their minds and hearts, not their looks.  If they are worried about being judged for how they look they are focusing on their outward selves before they have even figured out who they are on the inside.  And if my kids are worried, they sure aren’t showing it.

I’d call it my parenting win for the week.

Making Way For Winter

We took advantage of the three day weekend to get some winterizing and cleaning done.

Paul worked on painting the deck while I got the pantry and kitchen cabinets cleaned out and organized.

The fence surrounding the small paddock got a coat of black paint, and I dug up all the sweet potatoes.

It was the worst, most pathetic harvest ever.

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I am a failure as a potato farmer.  Out of 30 plants, this is all there was.  Most were undersized; a lot had some sort of pest damage in them.  I think a combination of crappy soil and the rainiest season this side of the Amazon had parts to play, but it’s hard not to feel completely inept when faced with the outcome of your hard work and investment.  All I know is, thank goodness we can still hunt and gather at Trader Joe’s, because if I had to feed my family from the gardens, we’d starve.  The pigs, on the other hand, were thrilled with the treat of broken and damaged sweet potatoes.

After bemoaning my lack of luscious tubers I cleaned out one chicken coop, treated for lice and mites, and put in fresh bedding.

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They seemed to appreciate it.

It’ll be filthy again by mid-week.

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Meanwhile the indoor animals are honing their napping all day skills.  Generally in whatever sunny spot they can find, though a quiet bedroom is always a sure bet, too.

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With the time change I’ve been getting up much earlier than I had been; it’s so much brighter in the mornings now!  It’s becoming a favorite ritual to be up before anyone else and out in the frosty air to feed and check on everyone outside before heading back into a still, quiet house for a cup of coffee.  I even change back into my pajamas and no one even knows I’ve been out when they come down later, rubbing sleep from their eyes.  I think we’d all like to join the cats and indoor dogs and curl up for the season.

 

 

This Morning in Pictures

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I can’t get Churchill his breakfast fast enough.

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At this point, the sheep have realized what trickery is afoot.  I used feeding time to pen them into the small paddock to wait for Dr. Grover to come take some blood for routine testing.

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Suspicious Alabama is suspicious.

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Angry Bertie.  She is not a fan of being handled.  Or having blood drawn.  Or the further injustice of getting a dose of wormer.

Aside from the bloodwork (to test for fairly common goat and sheep viruses) the flock has a clean bill of health.  That’s enough for a happy Friday!

Shepherd Sweater Update

Well that was a pointless interlude – Paul came home, took one look at my computer, rebooted it, and it was good to go.  No data loss, nothing.

Figures.

This is why I never, ever try to fix anything without first asking.

Anyhoo….

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Here’s how my Shepherd Sweater is coming along!

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It looks so cozy and comforting, like a hot bowl of your favorite oatmeal on a cold winter morning.

I am so glad I chose to knit the Shepherd version (besides the fact that being a shepherd made me feel like it was necessary); the cables have been so much fun and not too fiddly at all.  I did go down several needle sizes – to size 5’s – but I am using completely different yarn than the pattern calls for (I am using wool that came off the very backs of the animals I’ve been caring for) and my gauge is still a tad larger than it should be.  I went down a sweater size to accommodate the difference and it seems to be working splendidly!

I may even knit this again in another color.

It’s that good.